A Dental Nurse in Whangamomona Part 1

(Raumati identity, Sally Ashley, recently uncovered her late mother’s recollections of her first job. She was posted to Whangamomona as a freshly trained dental nurse in the late 1930’s. Here is Part 1 of her story.)

Janet Davidson in 1941

A one way trip to the middle of nowhere

By Janet Davidson

So newly trained, so raw and willing, I was posted straight out to Whangamomona as a newly qualified School Dental Nurse.

Where is Whangamomona ????

Well it is not too far from civilisation and it is on the main truck rail route from New Plymouth to Auckland.

Certainly the guard queried my single ticket to Whangamomona and helpfully suggested that no-one took a single ticket to Whangamomona!!!

Because it is in the “middle of nowhere” and is surrounded by ranges it seemed to be carrying things to extremes for it to be “blacked out ” during the war years.

The Hotel and a disturbing headline

Whangamomona Hotel

The train stopped late at night so I was very pleased to be met by the local Postmaster who took me to supper and then to the Hotel where I was to stay over-night.

The Hotel had once been the focal point of a Public Works Camp during the laying of the railway. It was a huge place and I felt so lost.

The paper had been left for my perusal and I would have enjoyed it more if I had not read the headline: “Girl in Whangamomona rescued from papa clay”.

She had apparently gone off the road and into the papa clay and was rapidly sinking when her screams were heard by a Public Works man working nearby.

She may never have been heard of again so the locals informed me.

The lamb and the new dental clinic

I was wakened in the morning by the pattering of little feet and looked out from my blankets to come face to face with a lamb. I was to learn that this wee fellow was very much one of the staff and bounded up and down the stairs, no trouble at all.

Main Street

I set off up the Whangamomona road to the Clinic and the School. The Dental Clinic was quite the most modern building in the town: all stainless steel and rock gas!!!

The fact that I had to assemble the foot drill, unpack and set up the Dental chair seemed not at all in keeping with the lovely modern Clinic.

I opened up what looked like a coffin which turned out to be the foot engine.

What I had learned in “Use and Care of Equipment” must have sunk in for I got the thing together and was ready for business.

(Part 2 tomorrow.)


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